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Aussiecon 4: Day Five (Monday)
This is it! The last day of my convention report! This makes the first time years that I've actually finished one. *triumphant arms*

The con ended early of the last day, of course, but I still got three panels in. And took more notes on them than for just about any of the other panels!

The lure of a good map (Russell Kirkpatrick, Ian Irvine, Mia Farquharson (chair), David Cornish attending): Oddly, this was the most formal panel I went to all convention, with the chair/moderator standing at a lecture, an introductory slide up on the screen, and formal introductions of the panelists. It got a bit more casual after that, though.

I find it interesting that maps are almost always aspects of fantasy. Science fiction stories just don't seem to use them. I've certainly read science fiction novels that covered enough territory that a map could be made, but I've also never gone, "Crap, where is that in relation to this?" in an SF story as I have in a fantasy story. More thinking on this could be interesting.

I was also interested in just how expansive the panelist's own maps were. Some of them were talking about having rooms wallpapered in maps. Now that's some world building!

Some questions with answers and other points:

* Do you put stuff on the maps that isn't directly in the narrative?
~~~ yes -- you want to add depth to the world, and that's what real life is like

* Cornish: spent a year making an atlas, and it hamstrung the book -- it was so real to him he couldn't change -- had to move to a different continent to have some more freedom

* audience member: most maps seem to be designe for very high horsepower (per meter?) transport without realizing that peole are walking or riding over them

* the Romans saw straight lines on maps as almost talismanic, so they tended to bash roads straight through things
--- they contribute to the feeling of the world

* maps help you figure out how long it takes to get places (esp. relative to each other)

* REC (by panelist): The collected works of T.S. Spivet

* Russell Kirkpatrick: if you give an architect a flat piece of land in the suburbs and say "build a house" you get your standard three bedroom house with a garage and a kitchen and a lawn. If you give them a steeply sloping piece of land and a stream running through it and all sorts of building road blocks you get something really interesting {{referring, I believe, to an interesting shaped world giving an interesting and unique story}}

I took a lot of notes in my next panel, but we'll see how many are worth sharing. :-)

Losing the plot: plotting in advance vs. writing as you go (Melinda Snodgrass, Stephen Dedman, John Scalzi, Lezli Robyn, Ian Tregillis attending): This is a discussion that I go to regularly at cons. I always discover an new metaphor for these two approaches, too. I'm sure you've all been involved in an outliner versus organic discussion before, so I'm going to go straight to highlight notes. Interestingly, this was a panel that tended strong towards getting an answer from each panelist in turn, so my notes reflect that:

* how does a gardener find their way through the plot?
- Lezli's stories are very relationship based; there are lines that pop out and show where things go
- John: before he started writing novels, spent a year as an editor reading 1000 submissions a month for a magazine that had 20 openings -- 90% is crap and 10% is broken and must be fixed and he had to show them how to fix it
"I have a very strong editor in my head and this editor hates my writing"
ADVICE: spend time as an editor
- Stephen: must write at least 1000 words, an in those 1000 words something must happen that either advances the plot or informs the character

* Ian: has tried many methods; once he knew a book so well he didn't bother with the last half the outline and it came in longer than expect because he hadn't planned the efficent path
- has tried bullet points, color coded bullet points
- notecards work well because you can move them around

* how do you communicate with your characters
- Stephen: created two characters, tried to push them into a story, but couldn't fit them in there; had to come up with a story that they would bother investigating
- John: if you develop a character, and you try to make them do something inauthentic, you feel it
- Lezli: {{no notes}}
- Ian: getting to know the character is the hardest part, so he's never had a character refuse to do something

And now, the last panel of my Aussiecon!

Cover art (Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Ginjer Buchanan, Toni Weisskopf attending): I went to this one for the panelists. These three just have great energy. But also, this is the one aspect of publishing that I have never heard someone speak on before, and I was curious.

I didn't take a lot of notes, but it was interesting to see who got input into the cover art process and who doesn't. I had no idea that the buyers for the bookstores had so much influence, even if they exercise it only rarely, or that the author consult (if done at all) is left so very late in the process (generally). Also interesting. to see how very different the process of getting cover art is from house ot house.

* other genres refresh the look of an author/line much more often than in SF&F

And that's the last of the panels I attended. I did have a couple of thoughts that didn't fit into a panel report, so here are some final thoughts:

~ I realised part way through that there were effectively no cosplayers at the con, and that there was no cosplay thread of programming. I'm trying to remember if there were cosplayers at the LA World Con, and I don't think there were. Has cosplay never been a part of World Con? I guess I can see why, if it is very focused on the professional aspect of SF&F. I'm just used to Norwescon, where there is a very strong cosplay presence.

~ Like in LA, the con is drowning in convention centre. It really feels like the venue is too big, but I think this is a function of the fact that they need more programming space than any hotel provides, even if they have 5,000 people (rather than the 30,000 a convention centre might be designed for).

~ The pocket program... Okay, positive first. I really like the new format folks at various conventions seem to be going for: A size that actually fits in the pocket, with a coil binding down the short edge and a programming grid laid out in landscape. Excellent. Very useful and easy to use. But my biggest complaint for the whole convention also had to do with the pocket program. Specifically, the fact that the panel descriptions were in alphabetical order by title rather than in order by time. I can't tell you how many times I cursed, having to flip back and forth and back and forth trying to find the panel I wanted. Also, when I'm planning my schedule, I like to flip to the current time and look at everything that's available. You couldn't do that with this program, and it irritated me to no end.

Overall, I really enjoyed the con. I think the thing I liked most was that even familiar panel topics that always end up being the same conversations at American SF&F cons were different at Aussiecon 4. Three cheers for other cultural perspectives! :-)

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Re "spend time as an editor"--spending time as a critiquer does much of the same thing. I was very active in Critters (less so now, mostly because I'm busy with my own projects) for a long time, and seeing recurring flaws taught me a lot about fixing my own writing. beginnings still suck, though.

I signed up for the Online Writing Workshop awhile back for just this reason, but did one critique and then let my membership lapse. :-/ I will have to try to again, though at the moment I'm concentrating on building up my stores of psychotic persistence! beginnings still suck, though.

Augh, yes, mine, too. I find beginnings harder than the dreaded "middle of the book" because I have to settle into the characters and the setting and get everything set up. Once it's in place, writing gets a lot easier for me. Not easy, but easier.

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